Photographer Corey Templeton ventured beneath the old Roma Cafe yesterday to explore the ruins of the Bramhall Pub. That's what it felt like, at least: An archaeological dig with owner Mike Fraser undertaking an extreme restoration. As Templeton pointed out, he was too young to visit the former pub before it closed years ago, so the analogy is not far off.
The new Bramhall is an update, as suggested by the dropping of "Pub" from its name. There will be no pool tables. Local beer will flow from all six taps. Bar manager Guy Streitburger, formerly of Ginkgo Blue, knows his way around a cocktail shaker. Newcomers will have plenty to love.
But Fraser is also reaching out to those who frequented the speakeasy back in its heyday, offering familiar experiences like live music, a bottle of Budweiser and a shot, a simple burger for lunch. Reiterating what he stressed to Kathleen Pierce in a recent interview, Fraser said he's confident the former Bramhall Pub's patrons will feel comfortable at Bramhall, too.
Chris Beaulieu, most recently sous chef at Duckfat and formerly kitchen manager at Sebago Downtown, will be making casual food that is "appropriately priced" for the location - it's not meant to be the same experience presented at a restaurant like Fore Street, where Fraser and his wife have worked for years.
Fraser is also preserving what he sees as Bramhall's main attraction: Its killer atmosphere. "I want to do justice to the space down there, I want to get out of its way," Fraser said of the brick walls and stained glass windows that define the location.
There is still work to be done before Bramhall can pass its final inspections, but the owner has his fingers crossed that the bar will open by mid-October. In the meantime, explore its progress and leave feedback in the comments. 769 Congress Street, Portland, Facebook. Opening in October.